Canisius Goes Test-Free

Why we’re going test-free

At Canisius, we’re dedicated to two things: our students and our values. These priorities guide everything that we do, and they are at the heart of our decision to implement a test-free policy in our admissions process.

Starting with students applying for fall 2024 enrollment, Canisius will not consider standardized admissions test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, as part of admission or merit-based scholarship decisions.

Here’s why.

Standardized tests are poor predictors of student success

In March 2020, as part of our response to the coronavirus pandemic, Canisius adopted a test-optional admissions policy, where students could decide whether they wanted us to consider their standardized admissions test scores. Like many, the pandemic presented an opportunity for us to take a step back and reflect on what we were doing, the reasons for doing them, and whether we wanted to keep doing things the same way.

We conducted extensive research evaluating the use of standardized tests in admissions by looking at student performance both in high school and at Canisius. Initially, that research was intended to ensure that the decision to go test-optional was not diminishing Canisius’ academic environment.

Not only was that not the case, but the data pointed to something even deeper. 

Our findings indicated that there is no correlation between a student’s standardized admissions test score and their ability to succeed in college or after graduation. Annual research conducted by the College Board agrees: High school GPA is far more predictive of a student’s success than their standardized test scores.

The results are clear: The only thing that standardized admissions tests really measure is how well students take those tests. 

Standardized tests do not align with our values 

As a private Jesuit school, we are primarily called to act in accordance with our values, such as justice, equity and compassion, in a way that other institutions are not.

As significant as the research is, it does not provide a complete picture of standardized admissions tests.  We determined that standardized admissions tests are opposed to these values in several key ways:

  • We value access to education. Standardized tests can negatively impact students’ perceptions of what they can accomplish, discouraging them from applying to schools in the first place and putting up barriers between them and the best path to success.
  • We value equity of opportunity. Standardized tests disadvantage students from underserved and marginalized communities, such as underfunded rural schools, as well as students with cognitive disabilities.
  • We value economic justice. Standardized tests elevate students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, who can afford tutors, courses and other resources that give them an edge over lower-income students.

Whatever limited insight that standardized admissions tests offer comes at the cost of greatly diminished access for those students most in need of the transformational power of education.

canisius president steve stoute in his office
"This change supports our commitment to transform our society by inspiring a new generation of leaders who will not accept the status quo."
Steve K. Stoute, President of Canisius University

Students are more than a score

Once we determined that we should not accept the results of standardized admissions tests, we saw the opportunity to do something different – something that would better account for exactly those characteristics of a student that these tests ignore. Because the way that tests “level the playing field” means flattening students’ individual experiences, we’re choosing to make more room in our application for prospective students to more fully express who they really are. We want to see students’ unique interests, backgrounds, perspectives, talents and accomplishments, because that diversity makes Canisius the vibrant learning community it is.

How it Works

Applicants will be asked to submit an additional application requirement from the following options:

  • An additional personal essay.
  • An additional letter of recommendation.
  • An interview with a Canisius alum, faculty member, or admissions counselor.
  • A portfolio, media kit, or even a link to a YouTube, Twitch or other platform channel to highlight skills that demonstrate unique and creative ways of influencing our world. 

And because we recognize that students’ ingenuity outpaces our imagination, we’ll be adding even more options to our application as time goes on.

Our primary mission as a Jesuit institution is to care for the whole person. This decision allows us to better see prospective students as exactly that: whole persons.

Nonstandard students make outstanding leaders

Canisius is where leaders are made. Here, we have a vision of leadership for the modern world. We imagine people at every level of society and in every field who are guided by principle, who are empowered to make change, and who take action to address the existential challenges of our time: climate breakdown, racial injustice, political polarization, ideological extremism. 

These are unique problems without standardized answers. And it will take leaders who are anything but standard – Canisius students – to solve them.

For more information on how test-free admissions will work, including policies regarding college credit exams (e.g., Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate) and language-proficiency exams for international students, visit our FAQ page.